How the Special One Got Sacked - OZY | A Modern Media Company

How the Special One Got Sacked

How the Special One Got Sacked

By Eugene S. Robinson


Because ego is its own reward, or a punishment to be feared.

By Eugene S. Robinson

OZY Newsmakers: Deep dives on the names you need to know.

For all 895 of his days in Manchester, miracle manager José Mourinho lived in a $750-per-night suite in a five-star hotel, a fittingly lofty perch from which he was unceremoniously removed this week. Manchester United dumped Mourinho, 55, known by the self-applied nickname “the Special One,” with a special parting gift of $19 million — coupled with a dose of Premier League shame.

In the face of friction at a storied franchise like Man U with a $112 million star player in French World Cup winner Paul Pogba, whom the nattily dressed and impeccably coiffed Mourinho sat out in a power struggle, only to see his team lose to rival Liverpool last Sunday, it was all about straw and camel’s backs.

“Mourinho carried himself with the apparent delusion that his personal brand is bigger than that of Manchester United,” says sportswriter Beau Dure, a soccer expert and OZY contributor. “He also has a rep for boring, defensive soccer, and that’s not going to fly.” With tickets costing a fortune, “the game needs to be entertaining. If it’s not, then the margin for error is that much thinner. Lose a bit and be boring? Yeah, you’re gone.”

Mourinho first rose through the managerial ranks in his native Portugal before making a Premier League splash with Chelsea (twice). Other stops included A-list programs Inter Milan and Real Madrid as he built up 18 years of accomplishments — the most points in a Premier League season, most games unbeaten at home, the longest (nine years) unbeaten home streak by a manager and the youngest manager to reach 100 Champions League Games in 2012. But the Special One had worn out his welcome after two and a half years in Manchester.

[Mourinho] seems to have accepted the fact that his coaching wears thin in the third year or so.

Sportswriter Beau Dure

He was sacked not for poking Barcelona assistant coach Tito Vilanova in the eye before non-apologizing to Vilanova while calling him a dick, which he did, or accusing all the sports journalists in Italy of “intellectual prostitution,” which he also did, or screaming at the team doctor who had rushed out to help an injured player that she was a “daughter of a whore,” which he did and for which the team later lost a discrimination suit.

No, he got gone because at an institution like Manchester United, sensitive to both winning and what it takes to win, the glowering, humorless, dictatorial act wasn’t going to play (especially if it wasn’t playing marquee players). What once worked may eventually end up not working. A sense that the game could be passing by appeared to make Mourinho even more driven to hold on, and led to an inability to suffer fools lightly. 


Despite this kind of marked churlishness, in the last eight years The Special One pulled in a GQ Man of the Year award, a Rockstar of the Year nod from Rolling Stone, a ninth placement on’s list of Most Influential Men and best of all got to voice the Pope in a Vatican-approved cartoon. This on top of commercial endorsements for everyone from American Express and Braun to Jaguar and Adidas. So digging below the surface of all of the shiny stuff, there emerges a rabid, single-minded mensch with some variation of a chip on his shoulder who now has gone from a friend of Manchester United to, possibly, a fearsome competitor.  

“Has he gone even four seasons with any single club?” asked Will Heffernan, former strength and conditioning coach for both Everton and the Glasgow Rangers, pointing accurately to Mourinho’s successful but unstable career. “In any case, he had to go.”

But it’s hard to imagine him leaving for good a game that his father played, that he played and managed, that one of his kids plays and will probably try to manage, and that he’s just recently signed on to cover as a television analyst.

Mourinho “seems to have accepted the fact that his coaching wears thin in the third year or so,” Dure says with a laugh. “Why else would he have been living in a hotel the whole time? But someone will take a chance on him. Some club that isn’t really elite but thinks it is and has a bunch of money to spend.”

Monaco? Time and circumstance will tell.

Measuring How Special The Special One Is Via Career Trophies

Champions League: 2
La Liga: 1
Premier League: 3
Primeira Liga: 2
Serie A: 2
UEFA Cup/Europa League: 2
Other titles: 13

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